Weekend reads: Former ORI director speaks out; Is peer review broken?

booksAnother busy week at Retraction Watch. Here’s what was happening elsewhere on the web in scientific publishing and related issues:

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13 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Former ORI director speaks out; Is peer review broken?”

  1. The analysis by John Royce of the paper “Infantile colic, facts and fiction” by Abdelmoneim E.M. Kheir is really astonishing. Although the paper is clearly marked as “retracted” at the homepage of the journal, it is also available unmarked at Springerlink, which also carries that journal. So it may well depend on chance what you get to read, the fact – or the fiction.

  2. Independent of whether the April 1st post on the Scholarly Kitchen was an April Fool’s joke or not, I believe that the comment made there may be true: “A recent study by the Institute of Publishing Professionals reports that morale among senior executives in the publishing industry is at an all-time low.” Even if the IPP might not exist, the latter part of that comment might be reflecting something new, and a veiled hint at a dip in morale by publishing management. Basically, for what do they want to fight when for so many years publishing provided them good profits, nice benefits and probably excellent bonuses? Right now, what they are seeing and implying about traditional STM publishers, is that there is increased competition by OA publishers, many of which are fake, or fraudulent, a dumbing-down of the general scientific base, and a simultaneous heightened awareness by many members of the same base, who want to see the literature corrected, and fake, fraudulent or incorrect papers retracted. Fangs beared, the latter group are now approaching editor boards, management, and author services causing a massive overload, so much so that even the movement of basic services to countries like India or the Philippines, as done by Springer and Elsevier, is most likely not able to cut costs sufficient to deal with the new work overload caused by complaints and queries. The truth of the matter is that we, the scientific community, are fed up with their cover-ups, their lack of responses and their inability to deal with claims and complaints, so we are no longer afraid to expose them publically, afraid of their lawyers and nonsense claims of libel, and their plasticized PR messages. There is no doubt that this situation is agonizing: on one hand, most scientists do not understand the depth of the world of publishing, nor do they care, and all they want is to see their work published, anywhere. With little regard for the consequences of who, or what, they are ultimately supporting. The academic community, at least a sliver of it, is ready for the battle for academic justice, willing to sacrifice all, and not afraid to gain anything, simply to gain academic integrity. This is a new generation of neo-liberals that is not hiding behind laws in order to seek justice, or behind lawyers in order to seek protection. Those services are now provided, for free, by blogs, Twitter, and YouTube. If I were an executive at a top traditional STM publisher, I would be looking at my early retirement options really closely right now. Science is about to implode. Very soon. And this includes science publishing. Like any major constructive event in history, it was always preceded by a cataclysmic event, not by hundreds of marketing manoeuvers aimed at covering the war signs. The retraction notices we are witnessing reflect NOTHING, I state boldly. They only represent a fake attempt to show that something is being done. In the case of serious misconduct, indeed, these actions will come across as being a herald for publishing ethics, but no, be not fooled! They only represent an attempt to cover up the mess of the traditional peer system that has failed miserably in so many instances, far more than they are allowing to be reported. I state, very strongly, publish everything that you can that shows their misdeeds. This includes fake peer reviews, unfair judgments on decisions related to rejected papers, shenanigans by any editor, or publisher, etc. Unless we have a flood of real stories from the battle field, unless we have the tales of wrath that emerge from beyond the Silicon Valley, and unless we have heart-felt accounts of pain and treachery suffered by scientists at the hands of over-zealous, overly-powerful editors and editors in chief, and excessively suppressive publishers, we, the scientific community and science publishing, will be reduced to ashes, as in Pompeii. There is no doubt that there are many reasons for the imminent implosion, and many are responsible, from scientists, editors through to publishers, that is why small band-aids here and there are not going to fix this situation. I wish I had something positive to say today, but I don’t. 10 or 20 years ago, I can never forget the feelings of wanting to publish my work, excited about the prospects of being published in a journals of repute. Now, the very same journals and publishers that I once considered as being the stalwarts of quality and fame (synonymous with excellent quality control) are now proving to be somewhat fake, with editors who only serve as a marketing mask to feign quality control (even though it does ultimately take place, sufficient evidence exists that a massive cover-up is also taking place) and whose objectives are not the true clarity and quality of the academic record, but to pump out as many papers as possible, to sustain a high IF and to thus bring in profits, if not through traditional subscriptions, then through alternative sources of revenues, such as English revision services, poster production services, exorbitant OA fees, and other pseudo-quality metrics that only the vulnerable (or those who receive funding and use money that isn’t from their own pockets) among the scientific community actually support.

  3. It’s my opinion that as long as companies who have a vested interest in the outcome of the research are the funding sources of that research the process will remain broken. Real research IMO can only take place when there are no political or financial directives driving the research in a certain direction. Scientists at universities who are rated and given tenure based on the number of research articles they publish don’t put out quality, they put out quantity in many cases – and who can blame them when it’s their job on the line?

    If Republicans are backing obfuscation in financing then we’re done, it can’t be fixed.

    The whole system is broken.

    1. “Scientists at universities who are rated and given tenure based on the number of research articles they publish don’t put out quality, they put out quantity in many cases – and who can blame them when it’s their job on the line?”

      In some institutions the amount of money you bring in is all that matters.

      1. Absolutely. If you try to discuss the issue, the usual argument is that bringing in money shows that you are good. End of story. It reminds me of what is happening in election politics. These days, bringing in money demonstrate you are a good politician, regardless of whether you have any ideas for policy or whether you care about your constituents. It’s a general pattern in society.

  4. “A group of Republication senators doesn’t think scientists need to disclose who funded their research”

    I can support that position; the science either holds up on its own or it doesn’t. All money is Green.

    The data and conclusions from studies on the effects of hypothermia on the human body, carried out by Nazi ‘Scientists’ on innocent, captive, individuals is available and has been used.
    The ethical dilemma is that we may use the conclusions of studies, where people were tortured to death, to improve the survival of people now and in the future or ignore it and accept the possibility that people will die from medical ignorance. l’chaim.

    I have moral qualms about using astrocytes and neurons from aborted fetal tissue. However, the tissue exists and would be incinerated if not harvested and this is the only source for primary human brain cells and I use these tissues to model triggers of Autism.

    I would take funding for Autism studies from organizations who think that vaccines cause Autism, wanting proof, and from companies that produce vaccines and want to show they are safe. The work and conclusions would be the same, regardless of the funding source; they buy my labour and not my integrity. However, I know that some organization will not fund specific research, if it is controversial, they do not wish to be labeled anti-vacc’ers and attract publicity.
    Studying the genetic/environmental triggers of homosexuality I am given to understand to be very difficult. I suspect the same thing happens in climate science research.

    1. As to these inhumane experiments, I would recommend the eye opening new book “Operation Paperclip” by Annie Jabobsen. It contains incredible revelations about how much of these were swept under the mat in the aftermath of the Second World War. And I do not even talk about the entanglement of the scientists who brought America to the Moon.

        1. I am quite surprised to read your position, not only about funding, but also about the source of your experimental tissue. Firstly, if you remove the disclosure of funding, you invite corruption and abuse of funding. That disclosure serves as a transparency curtain. Such abuse will lead to the politicization of science. Surely such politicians who are advocating the non-disclosure of funding are seeking to pocket campaign funding on the sidelines? Imagine the Koch Brothers suddenly decided to fund billions on measures that claimed that using dead fetal tissue was ethical and legal. Science has always tried to say independent of State and Church, and should always remain independent. Unfortunately, the capitaist system we have embraced requires the integration of all sectors of society to seek the monetization of an effort. Hence the ability to corrupt the system so easily. “However, the tissue exists and would be incinerated if not harvested and this is the only source for primary human brain cells and I use these tissues to model triggers of Autism.” I am not a medical scientists, but to think that someone actually has the creative ability to scavenge on a dead body, is sickening to me. Just because a corpse exists shouldn’t give you the right to overlook the basic moral fact: you are encroaching upon the realm of death to seek solutions for life. I am not here to preach to you, just to state that I fundamentally disagree.

  5. “Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) pushes the NIH on why it didn’t try to recover grant funding after a case of HIV vaccine research fraud.”

    Is Senator Grassley pushing for recovery of the several trillion dollars wasted in Iraq and for bringing to justice the public officials that were responsible for it? Just saying…

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